Zamioculcas: Houseplant for January 2020

The powerhouse Zamioculcas is the Houseplant of the Month in January. It’s trendy, stylish and incredibly easy to care for. 

The story of Zamioculcas 
Zamioculcas zamiifolia, also commonly known as the zz plant, is a member of the Araceae, the arum family. It’s a perennial with feathered leaves that grows to a height of 40 to 60cm. The leaves on the thick stems are smooth, shiny and dark green. The plant can flower, but rarely does in home environments, unless it is seriously neglected, as a survival technique. The arum-like flowers will then grow from the base of the plant.

The plant has only been part of the houseplant range since 1996, and has no historic symbolism. But in terms of its indestructibility, words like ‘strength’, ‘survivor’ and ‘resilient’ are very appropriate.

Origin of Zamioculcas
Zamioculcas’ natural environment consists of rocky soil in lowlands or the foot of highlands in East Africa. Zamioculcas grow in countries like Kenya, Zimbabwe, Tanzania, Malawi and Zanzibar. Its cultivation as a houseplant is thanks to ambitious Dutch growers, who discovered the plant in the mid Nineties and saw a good houseplant in this unusual exotic. Cultivation is not complicated as such, but it does take time: the plant grows very slowly. To grow Zamioculcas as a houseplant, the growers have developed techniques to be able to deliver good plants within a reasonable timescale.  A warm and humid environment helps.

The Zamioculcas range is limited. But there is a wide choice of pot sizes of the same species. The only different name within the family is the mini-Zamioculcas, which is called Zamicro. The Raven, with its name attributed to the almost black colour of its leaves, is also an option on offer.

What to look for when buying Zamioculcas 
When buying Zamioculcas, it is important that the plant is free of pests and diseases, although Zamioculcas is not very prone to these.

  • The number of feathers (stems) determines the classification. A feather is counted if it is at least half the length of the tallest feather on the plant.
  • The plant may sometimes have the odd yellow leaf, which suggest that it may have been stored for too long or has been too wet.
  • Black spots on the stem are part of the plant and do not indicate problems.
  • Also check the pot size in relation to the thickness of the plant, and the number of feathers and their length. On some plants the pot will be somewhat warped due to the enormous strength of the underground tubers in the pot. This can sometimes even cause the pots to tear. In that case repotting is an urgent necessity.  

Care tips for customers
Zamioculcas is an ‘easy care’ product that is very tolerant.

  • In terms of position it will thrive in both a light spot and partial shade.
  • A room temperature of 18-22°C is fine. The plant should not be too cold, although again it generally won’t complain too much about that.
  • What Zamioculcas really cannot cope with is overwatering. The soil can be left to dry out a bit between watering. The plant has strong succulent properties in its leaves and roots to get it through a dry period.
  • Give some plant food once a month, and regularly spray the leaves with tepid water.
  • Old leaves can be removed if required. New feathers (leaves) will form if there is sufficient light.
  • The underground tubers are incredibly strong and can distort the (plastic) inner pot and crack the cachepot. The Zamioculcas must be repotted before it gets to that stage. 
  • In the summer, when the temperature no longer goes below 12°C, the plant can also be placed in the garden or on the patio. Do be careful of bright sunlight though.
  • The plant is only for decoration and not for consumption.

Sales and display tips
The strong vertical lines of the upward feathered leaves make Zamioculcas an ideal eye-catching plant to bring greenery into an interior. The fact that it is a very easy houseplant makes it appealing for students and busy people, offices and public spaces. The plant works in both modern and traditional interiors, depending on the pot. The ‘zamio’ takes on a trendier look in a colourful pot with a folklore style.